For many years I lived as a hermit in the mountains of the Pyrenees in France. It was there that I started writing the story of Banios-sur-Ange. Maybe it was the storms that inspired me or the great eagles riding the wind. Maybe it was the meadows of wild flowers. Maybe it was because I got lonely and wanted company. In any case I started to write this story, The Cloud of Goodness.
The Cloud of Goodness by Stafford Whiteaker
For years I had made my living as writer of non-fiction and here I was writing a story about a once-upon-a-time village lost in a far valley beyond the forests. A little history of vice, virtue and the devil. What I wanted, above all, was to get as close to my readers through this story as possible. That is the company and companionship I wanted. I wanted you to be part of my life. In short, I made this website so I could offer the story of the village of Banios-sur-Ange (Banios-by-the-Angel) to you, a place to meet where it all happened, a way of knowing each other, a way of saying, without you, the reader, I would not exist. Continue reading Without you, there is no me!→
Now is the darkest hour. Now is the time you must wait on God. The hour approaches when there the light will leave this world. The shadow descends on the Beloved as he cries out, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,’ in submission to God’s will. He dies to consummate the redemption of the world. Be astonished in contemplation of this incomprehensible mystery that Life itself should die in order to deliver you from death and to impart to you eternal life. Consider on this day and in this hour, who hangs there dead before your eyes: The Word, the Wisdom, and the Son of the eternal God. He is crucified and dead for the love of each of us. Draw near to him now in spirit and wait at the foot of his Cross, as did his mother. Mourn in prayers of hope and love. Pour out yourself in acts of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. Above all renew the promises of your heart to be his both in life and death now and forever.
King of the Jews
Consider how even at this time Our Lord begins to reign. The title that hangs over his head declares him to be the ‘King of the Jews,’ All nature proclaims him: the sun withdraws its light for the hours that he hangs upon the cross; at his death the whole earth trembles, and the veil of the Continue reading On Redemption: Meditation for Good Friday→
First Meditation: Lessons to be learned from Christ in his Passion
In the Passion of Christ, his submission to God’s will is no less admirable than his humility. We learn from his ministry about the place of this kind of submission as well as the place of humility in our lives. (Matt. 11:29) On the Cross, he taught these lessons too, being led like a sheep to the slaughter and not opening his mouth to protest. (Isaiah 53:7) Isaiah foretells for us how Christ will respond at the time of his death: The Lord God has opened my ear and I do not resist for I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them; I have turned not away my face from them that rebuke me, and spit upon me.’ (Isaiah 50:5-6)
The Apostle Peter explains that we have been given these prophetic words as an example that we should follow. He tells us that when Jesus was reviled, he did not revile. When he suffered he threatened not, but delivered himself to those that judged him unjustly.’ (1 Pet. 2:21, 23) Let us learn from the Continue reading On Submission: Meditations for Lent Week 6→
First Meditation: On devotion to the Passion of Christ
Meditating on the sufferings and death of Jesus ought to be a principal part of the Christian’s devotion during the time of Lent, because the time is approaching when we commemorate the yearly memory of Christ’s passion. Therefore, we need to focus on the crucified Saviour and make him the object of our devotion. His passion is an ever-flowing source of mercy, grace, and salvation to us, since all that is good flows from his cross. The more we approach him in his sufferings and place ourselves near the cross through our meditations, the more plentifully we partake of that mercy and grace.
We see in the example of Judas that no state of life or calling, however holy, can secure us from danger. Was not this Apostle, called by Christ and schooled by him in the way of light? Was Judas not called from darkness like the other Apostles? Was not Judas witness to the casting out of demons and the working of miracles? Nevertheless, Judas fell so far from grace as to rise no more. Let anyone, who is sensible, realize on what slippery ground he or she stands in this life, because we are all potentially a Judas. This means that we should distrust ourselves and place all our confidence in God. We must work out our salvation, then, with fear and trembling for the seductions of this world are waiting for us, ready to lead us from God—and even like Judas into death.
But what was it that brought Judas to this evil state? It was the love of money. This he indulged in at first by the opportunity of carrying the common purse of the Apostles. Here he found temptation. Thus by degrees, he fell into evil, which took possession of his soul to the extent that Continue reading On Betrayal: Meditations for Lent Week 4→
It was on a fine spring day just as the strawberries were blossoming that Thomas-Jean Barracult took to his bed. He said that as he was now in his ninety-eighth year he had a right to rest. When the mayor came to visit him, Thomas-Jean announced that he intended to leave the village something of great value. Speculation swept over Banios like a sudden wind up from Africa, hot and impatient, turning this way and that in its excitement. Even Marcel Fontan who kept sheep in the Lacaze came down to find out what was happening. Gisèle de Saint Phalle spat out her cigaretto and said that, as Thomas-Jean had spent his entire life only milking two cows twice a day and had never been outside the village, he could hardly have a fortune. But she was wrong. While it was true that Thomas-Jean had lived all his life from selling the milk, he had made one trip outside the village and he was rich thanks to Stalin.
Long before Gisèle de Saint Phalle had been born, Thomas-Jean had attended the 1928 Communist Party Conference in Warsaw. When he came back, he would stand outside the church on Sundays and make speeches about Communism and the glory of the Red Revolution to anyone who would listen. After the first week, no one was interested. One Sunday a journalist from a national newspaper passed through the village on his way to mountain-climb and listened to Thomas-Jean. The result was an article headlined Is this the Nation’s Last Revolutionary? Someone of high rank in Russia, perhaps even Stalin himself, decided Thomas-Jean should be rewarded for his loyalty. So, for fifty years a small pension had arrived in cash, neatly tucked into a brown envelope with a Russian stamp. Thomas-Jean had never spent a penny of the money. He put it in a box in the loft above his cows.
Failure was not something the Devil was used to. He went into a pout for a week. This affected everything. The river flowed the wrong way again. The wind blew day and night and the Royal Eagle stayed in her nest. The village hens refused to lay eggs. Abbé Capdevielle got the worst case of indigestion he had ever experienced. Madame Labayle’s bread refused to rise for the first time in forty years and Gilles Moutel’s best boots were found in the pig’s pen. Everyone knew it was the work of the Devil. They stared down at the stones and did not dare whisper his name.
There is one thing even stronger in people than religion and churches, the Devil thought – Money! That precious commodity which men and women longed for, fought over, neglected each other to get, often killed to obtain. The desire for money gave everyone a desire for more of it. No one ever got enough. The poor wanted it. The rich wanted to be richer. The big stepped on the small. The world was made of money. Everyone knew that money was the root of all evil, but nobody cared. They just wanted more of it. “Money!” the Devil sang in a delighted voice: “Money! Oh! Money! Oh, Cash makes the world go round”!
He decided greed was what was needed in Banios. Greed could ruin anything and everything. It destroyed every virtue. It didn’t even need to be just money. It could be food or possessions or sex. But the best greed of all was for just plain, old-fashioned cash. No one ever got enough of it. So greed was what he would stir into his Banios broth. “Money! Money! Money!” he sang over and over. A sudden treasure was what was needed in Banios. He just knew it.
We worship God in spirit and truth for God is spirit and so our prayers are spiritual offerings and replace ancient sacrifices. (John 4:24) Our new sacrifice, which is prayer, is offered from the heart, fed on faith, prepared by truth, unblemished in innocence, pure in chastity, garlanded with love, which we bring to God’s altar, in procession of good works, to the accompaniment of psalms and hymns. This will obtain for us from God all that we ask. (Tertullian On Prayer) This time of Lent is not just a time for fasting and giving alms, but is also a time of devotion and prayer. Fasting, alms, and prayer, are like three sisters, which go hand in hand. If, then, prayer is necessary at all times and is the very life of a Christian, it is certainly an indispensable duty at this holy time.
But what is prayer? All private prayer of every kind, is a conversation with God and a rising up of the mind and heart to God. By our words we address ourselves to God We present him with our homage, adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. In his presence by our faith, hope, and love, we lay before him all our necessities and Continue reading On Prayer: Meditations for Lent Week 3→
Pierre Dauriac was a captain in the French police and his mother was very proud of him until he took up Zen. She said nothing, because she understood that men often drifted away from the church of their fathers. She knew that on his deathbed he would be blessed with holy oil and sent onwards to heaven. Now nobody could remember anything ever happening to change Pierre’s routines. His stability was reassuring in a changing world. He worked away six days a week and then was back in Banios for the weekend. He dug his vegetables on Sunday morning, played football in the afternoon and went to the café for a drink until six when he went home. People only ever saw him in uniform when he left and returned from duty except for the time the Minister of Agriculture visited. Then Pierre stood by him, looking like thunder when everyone shouted and yelled about the level of their corn subsidies. As far as we knew Pierre was a confirmed bachelor, although someone once said they had seen him in town with an African woman and an Albino child. As no one had ever seen an Albino child, no one believed the story.
One Saturday morning, Pierre started digging up the front garden. First he made a little stream run through it, which everyone thought stupid since we lived by one of the greatest rivers in the mountains. Then he made a bridge in the Continue reading Chapter 4: The Buddha Monkey→
Religion is where I must begin, decided the Devil. There is no better place to start a war or just cause trouble than in religion. Everyone knows that. They are sure to wind up arguing the merits of this or that and, finally, start to hate each. He knew it didn’t take much to get people stirred up. He remembered that in Russia, people long ago had divided up between those who believed in crossing themselves one way, while the others decided a different way was right. To this day they still did not approve of each other. He smiled, knowing his choice of religion was the right way to make Banios fall from grace and bring the angel back. He would capture her. He would embrace her. He would eat of the Cloud of Goodness. Then, he would know love and God would take him back.
The Devil flew up to the church steeple and shook the bells. As it was in the middle of the night, this woke up everyone. Then they heard him singing. ‘What was he doing?’, everyone asked. ‘What was going to happen now?’ They trembled in fear. Pepito Fourcade pulled the covers over his head and his wife told him that God would take care of it, no matter what happened. ‘God’, Pepito mumbled, ‘is what started it all.’ Continue reading Chapter 3: Plan One of the Devil→
Jesus clearly tells us that in order to find mercy we must show mercy. Blessed are the merciful, he explains, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7) The Apostle James tells us of the consequences of those who show no mercy: they will be judged without mercy. (James 2:13) So important is mercy that God himself expressly rejects the fast of those that refuse to show mercy to their neighbour. He declares he will neither hear their prayers nor accept their sacrifices. (Prov. 21:13, Isaiah 1:11/ 15-18) If then, you desire at this Lent time to seek divine mercy for yourself in the forgiveness of your sins, see that your fasting and prayer is accompanied with your own acts of mercy to others.
If you have much, give abundantly and, if you have little, take care even then to be willing to bestow some benefit on others. This is the guidance you need when it comes to acts of mercy. (Tob. 4:9) Such mercy and charity will recommend your fasting and prayer to God who is all charity and whose tender mercies are above all his works.
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